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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Walk 179 Porlock Weir to Minehead (Somerset)

Walk 179 Porlock Weir to Minehead (Somerset)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 181
Distance: 9 miles or 17 km approx
Difficulty: One very steep climb but the rest less demanding
Terrain: coastal/cliff/road
Access: Parking at both ends (paid at Porlock Weir)
Public transport: No 10 bus goes every two hours between the two places.

Follow the beach walk out of Porlock Weir – take care on the large pebbly rocks with their potential for twisting ankles. The path passes over marsh land. Look out for the memorial alongside the path near to Bossington . This remembers an American Air Force plane which crashed here during bad weather in 1942 killing ten crew. Out towards the sea are what I assumed were wartime defensive buildings (there are a few WW2 pill boxes) but most are the remains of lime kilns. Limestone from Wales was burnt to produce lime which was used as a fertilizer on local farms and for mortar in local buildings.

The path arrives in the attractive village of Bossington much of which is owned by the National Trust. Thatched cottages and buildings with tall chimneys feature here.

Follow the walk out of the village and along to Hurlstone Point, a windy place in my experience. There are good views back to Porlock Weir and, on a clear day, I understand that the cliffs of Glamorgan can often be seen across the sea. The tower here is an old coast guard lookout.

Prepare yourself for a steep demanding walk which gets a little bit easier nearer Selworthy Beacon (1013 ft above sea level) but goes up for a long distance and took me about 45 minutes. Not advisable in wet or very windy weather.

From here it is a few miles walk into Minehead. Near the end there is an option to go on the lower walk which passes through parkland. The first part of Minehead is the harbour. It is over 1000 years old and belonged to the son of Lady Godiva. A nice pub here – The Old Ship Aground - for some liquid refreshment and food. On the road along the sea front look out for the old thatched cottages. There were once many more but a fire in 1791 was caused by a miller who lobbed a blazing barrel of tar out of his door and into a stream only to set fire to the thatch of surrounding buildings. Ninety of them were destroyed.

Near to the cottages is a large metallic structure of hands holding a map. This marks the end/start of the South West Coastal Path. Looking ahead are the tent like buildings of Butlins. Opposite the sea in the main town is the terminus of the West Somerset Railway - the longest heritage railway in England. It was originally opened in 1874 and closed in 1971. Well worth a trip e.g. to the pleasant seaside town of Watchett.

An age old custom of Minehead is the ceremony of the 'obby 'orse which, on Mayday, goes down to the quay to the accompaniment of accordions and drums. Legend has it that a Viking pirate was frightened away from the town by the mask of a horse.

Arthur C Clarke, the science fiction writer, was born in the area.

Photos show: Minehead Harbour with The Old Ship Aground; the sculpture at the start/end of The South West Coast path; the old coastguard lookout at Hurlstone Point.

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